Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Name Calling, Finger Pointing and Yelling at the Wall

Oh, the internet. I do so love it sometimes.

All the other times, though, I want to bang my head on the keyboard.

Sometimes, I actually do it.

Please, someone out there tell me that I am not the only one who feels this way.

I have been bothered lately by a lot of things (shocking, I know), but the one thing that I keep noticing over and over again is where someone online writes something espousing their views about one subject or another, while aggressively trying to get other people to be reasonable and open minded, but then goes on to insult anyone who doesn't agree with them.

Actually insult them.

Whether it is name calling or insinuations about the intelligence level of others or whatever, it's utterly hypocritical and ridiculous.

Sometimes I want to walk around with a gigantic mirror and hold it up to people who can't seem to understand just how much they are contradicting themselves. It would be a public service, really, calling these people on the carpet for what they are doing.

What bothers me more than the fact that this practice is rampant is the fact that site editors and publishers aren't seeing though it. They share these posts with taglines about how the writer is encouraging frank discussions and open mindedness, about how they are risking their necks by talking about the subject in the first place, how they are to be applauded for bringing the subject to the public consciousness.

Except they are wrong. Completely wrong.

Most of the time, these writers aren't saying anything that tons of other people haven't already been saying for days or weeks or years. They didn't invent the topic, they didn't stimulate any discussion, they just started more arguments with people online after insulting their opinions.

I saw this several times yesterday alone, just on the subject of vaccines.

I know, I know, I know. Vaccines. It's like the goddamn third rail of the internet. Everyone has an opinion, everyone must insist that they are right, everyone seems to think that doing the best thing for them and their children always has to outweigh the interests of public health at all times, everyone feels totally justified.

Here's the thing. Are you ready for this knowledge I'm about to drop on you???

Every side of the argument has valid points.

Even the people hanging out on the fringes. 

On both sides.

In response to a question asked on my Facebook page yesterday, I wrote this long winded answer:

The reality with vaccines is this: they don't always work, even when everyone is vaccinated. There are incidents of disease every year, though the severity and spread is generally lessened by vaccines, assuming enough people have received them. Actual immunity can only be obtained through having had a disease, vaccines try awful hard to do the same, but fall short. Most adults never get boosters, and eventually the effectiveness wanes for some of the shots. There is a batch of MMRs that never took from when I was a kid - I know because I was one of the ones who wasn't protected (which explains why I had a mysterious mumps like disease when I was five that they just couldn't figure out). The batch didn't work. The problem is that any time a cluster pops up (which is what has always happened with any infectious disease, whether a vaccine exists or not), is that the media jumps all over it now. Unlike the measles "epidemic", which isn't really supported by the facts, whooping cough is far more troublesome and way more dangerous. Most adults aren't vaccinated for it at all, and infants can and do die if they contract it. I could literally write entire books about this stuff, because there are truly valid points on all sides of the issue, though few people can be reasonable enough to entertain the idea that the opposition might have a point. Horrible diseases that can be eradicated should continue to be vaccinated for, but in my opinion, we way over-vaccinate kids unnecessarily for things that they'd be better off having natural immunity to. The other major problem I have with it is that the testing and development isn't actually as sound as many in the science community want everyone to believe (and you know I am a total science geek). I would love to see more objective third party safety and efficacy testing, I would love to see more truthfulness in what the vaccines can do and what the side effects may be. H1N1 and HPV vaccines have done some real harms to people, in my opinion, because they were rushed to the market. There are risks associated with vaccines, there are risks associated with's part of life honestly. I think the pharmaceutical companies have pushed the envelope a little by creating so many vaccines and pushing for them to be included that parents are getting overwhelmed.

Did you read that whole thing? I apologize, but I'm not kidding when I say that I could write books about the subject. 

What would be helpful for parents, for public health workers, for everyone who has a dog in this vaccine fight, is if the things I suggested actually happened. If there was long term, objective, 3rd party study of both the efficacy and safety of each vaccine. If there was enough evidence to support the necessity of each vaccine added to the schedules. If there was a full disclosure of both the risk and severity of side effects. If there was more understanding about the reality that some people actually cannot and should not be vaccinated. If there was less manipulation of the data to push people into making choices out of fear. If there was any transparency about the financial motivations of the pharmaceutical companies producing the vaccines in the first place, and the role they play in marketing to physicians and lobbying for additions to the vaccine schedules. If the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) could come up with a convincing explanation as to why, if the MMR vaccine doesn't have any connection to autism spectrum conditions,  they recently paid out huge settlements to families alleging a connection, it would certainly help us all. 

If those things actually happened, maybe the average person would be better equipped to look at all the evidence. 

Listening to celebrities arguing on television isn't any more productive than reading posts online pointing fingers and calling anyone who disagrees a jerk. 

Take a step back everyone. Recognize that the opposition has a point...probably several valid points here, and it doesn't matter which side you are on. 

Not just with vaccines, but on the vast majority of topics that exist in the universe.

Or you know....just keep doing what you're doing. 

Name calling, finger pointing and yelling at the wall.  

....because that is totally worth the energy. 


  1. As per usual,a nother thought provoking, reasonable discussion from you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  2. Being called a jerk for any reason "may" lead a person to question their intentions, their biases but that likely won't happen until they are able to step back from a defensive approach.
    The way you write, the intentions of educating, encouraging research and accountability, those are reasons I can "hear" whether we're on the same side of a debate or not.
    Name calling is the fastest way to get me to play devil's advocate.
    Treating people like idiots, is a quick way to get me to research and understand the "idiots" claims. To look into their reasoning. It most definitely will not get me on the band wagon to join the name caller.
    There are always different sides to every story and within vaccine development, research, marketing, injury claims... every single angle of the debates, there are thousands of story lines to investigate and research and plenty of opportunity to use critical thinking skills.

  3. "Please, someone out there tell me that I am not the only one who feels this way." You are not alone.


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